This story is by Lindsi McIntyre and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
That was the only word Daria could use to describe the scene before her. Normally on opening night the dancer’s dressing room was filled with laughter and excitement as they all prepared for last rehearsal. It was the final run-through before preforming for their audience. It should have been a good day.
Instead, everyone sat at their dressing tables, utterly dejected. The show couldn’t go on. All because the male lead, the man meant to dance the part of Prince Charming, was a total diva.
They couldn’t put on the show without Philip. Yet he had stormed off stage the day before promising he wouldn’t be back. Even though he knew his stand in was injured and couldn’t replace him. Charming indeed.
Leticia had put everything into creating the new ballet. The entire Company had then thrown itself behind her vision, working so hard to get it right. The unique version of Cinderella was meant to put them all back on the map. Now everything was ruined.
The sound of footsteps echoed down the short hallway that led out to the stage. Leticia stopped at the open door of the dressing room and looked around. Her gaze landed on Daria.
“Daria. We need you on stage.”
Daria frowned. “What’s going on?”
Leticia sighed. “Justin thinks he has found someone to replace Philip.”
“What? How? Who is-”
Leticia shook her head. “It’s quicker if you just come see.”
Daria followed the other woman out the door, down the hall, and up the short flight of stairs to the stage. As Leticia opened the access door the cold October wind entered the stairwell, chasing away the artificial warmth. Daria was glad she was wearing her thick wool sweater as she stepped outside.
The set designers had done a marvelous job with the stage. Several backdrops had been hand painted and hung at the back, ready to be lifted away as the scenes were completed. A faux wooden surface had been taped to the concrete floor for the dancers to glide across.
Lastly, an adorable knee high printing of a white brick wall had been set up at the very front of the stage. There were two-dozen bright orange pumpkins, sitting in haphazard rows behind it. The wall was designed to fall forward silently, revealing the pumpkins for the Fairy Godmother scene, then return to its normal position for the Ballroom scene.
The warm colors of the fruit would be a welcome relief to the normal cool colors of the story. Not to mention the grey that covered the concrete stage and spectator stands. Even the sky was filled with dark grey clouds.
Justin stood in the center of the stage, next to a man Daria didn’t recognize. Both turned to face the women. As the man caught her gaze, Daria blinked in surprise.
His eyes were cobalt blue. Was it even possible to have irises that color?
“Daria. Come meet your new partner. Liam,” Justin said motioning to the man.
Daria gritted her teeth. Justin was always so clueless. As if he was the one who got to decide who her partner would be. She stopped halfway to where they stood and motioned Justin over.
“Can I talk to you for a second?”
Justin gave the man an encouraging smile before heading her way.
“We can’t take on a new guy at the last minute.”
“We don’t have any other options here. If we want the show to go on tonight, we need him.”
“I’d rather postpone the show than dance it badly,” Daria replied. “Everyone has worked too hard. They don’t deserve their efforts going to waste on some half baked attempt.”
“I put my neck on the line setting up this production,” Justin replied. “You know what a last minute cancellation like this will do to my reputation.”
“I’m sure getting dropped on my face during the show will be great for your reputation,” she said. “We don’t even know the man.”
The man looked up, and she realized too late that her words had carried across the room. His unnaturally colored eyes met hers. A perfectly trimmed, yet somehow still masculine, brow rose in question. She looked away.
“You know I don’t like dancing with new partners,” she said, lowering her voice. “There’s too much that can go wrong.”
“Besides, this is a new ballet. How is he going to learn the moves on time,” Leticia asked.
A good point, one Daria had yet to consider
“He has an eidetic memory,” Justin said, excitedly. “He specializes in filling in last minute roles like this. He has danced on Broadway for years, and done several big productions overseas. He even managed to memorize the choreography on the way over.”
Daria’s skepticism grew.
“How did we get someone that talented in such a short period of time?”
“Give me some credit, Daria,” Justin replied. “I do have some connections in the business.”
Daria fought off her doubt. Justin had been in the business for a long time. Maybe he managed to come through for them this time.
She turned to study the supposed Broadway man. He certainly had the physique of a Prince from a fairy tail. Not to mention the looks. That didn’t matter, though, if he couldn’t dance.
“At least give the guy a chance,” Justin said.
“Fine,” she said, stripping off her sweater.
“What are you doing?”
“You said to give him a chance,” she replied as she handed the sweater to Leticia. “Let’s see him dance.”
Leticia smiled as she took the sweater. “What should I play?”
“Let’s go with the score to the Ballroom scene.”
“You got it,” Leticia replied and headed toward the sound room.
Daria studied Liam as she made her way to center stage. She noticed his shoes immediately.
“You’re already wearing your dance shoes?”
He shrugged. A smile played at the corner of his mouth. “I figured someone would want to test me out.”
She gave him a skeptical smile. “Well, you have memorized the Ballroom scene. Right?”
“Sure. It’s the Prince and Cinderella’s first dance,” he replied.
His smile grew. “It’s also the hardest scene in the production.”
“Good eye. It’ll take more than that to get the part, though.”
The speakers squeaked with feedback, as Leticia got ready to play the song Daria had requested.
Liam stepped into the starting position and held his hand out to her. “Ready when you are.”
His mischievous grin sent an unfamiliar shiver through her. She brushed it aside and got into position. The music started up.
She stepped forward.
Took his hand.
And slipped flawlessly into the dance. His movements were perfect, but more than that, they were natural, confident. He had a way that compelled her through the steps.
Normally with new partners Daria was forced to hold back.
This guy was different.
Liam seemed to draw out her skill as he led her. His confidence helped her relax. His talent allowed her to test out her own abilities.
It was probably for that very reason that when it came time to leap into the final jump, where he was meant to catch her in his arms, she jumped a little too high. Landed a little too hard against his hands.
Daria felt him jerk. Felt her position above his head falter.
She was going to fall.
She braced herself to hit the floor, all the while biting back her urge to cry out. Even if she struck the ground, she wouldn’t break out of character. She was a professional. The show wouldn’t suffer because of her.
But she didn’t hit the floor.
Instead Liam shifted her weight expertly, spinning in a small circle to bring her down safely.
Daria caught on immediately and swung around into the turn, adding a twirl at the end of the dance where one shouldn’t have been. The music was meant to go longer than the dance, giving the step a natural feel.
The gentle violins and flutes ended.
Daria reveled in the usual thrill of ending a dance successfully, but Liam didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm.
“I guess I failed the test. Huh,” he asked.
He frowned. “I messed up.”
She shrugged. “Mistakes are part of the gig. That improv was perfect. I hate to admit it, but Justin was right. You’re definitely a pro.”
She didn’t know what was more annoying. The smug look on Justin’s face. Or the knee weakening smile that spread across Liam’s.
She decided to ignore them both.
“Let’s get everyone up here for a final run through.”
Chaos ensued as Justin called for everyone. The set and costume designers jumped into action. Dancers began to file onto the stage. Daria watched the bustle of activity her excitement growing.
It was just because they were going to be able to put on the show, she assured herself.
It didn’t have anything to do with the handsome new Prince Charming at her side.